According to some weather forecasts, this Easter weekend could be one of the hottest on record. But despite that, most parents are concerned that their children will spend the whole time glued to their digital devices, such as smartphones, tablets and computers.
In fact, according to web safety organisation Internet Matters, 60% of parents worry that their children don’t have any interests apart from going online. Parents of 12 year olds are the most worried, with 64% expressing their concern.
Children aged between 11 and 16 post online an average of 26 times a day, according to research by Internet Matters. That not-for-profit organisation has issued five tips to help wean children off their digital devices.
1. Set a good example with your own device. Children are highly likely to ape their parents’ behaviour, so if you start reading a book, chances are they’ll do the same.
2. Talk to them about the time they spend online, and try to gain an understanding of what they’re doing and who they’re conversing with. If you’re worried about their activities, tell them, and make sure you spell out why.
3. Set a time limit on how long they’re allowed to use their devices for. Make sure everyone in the family agrees to the same limits.
4. Stick to these limits. Create ‘screen free’ times and do some activities together as a family, like going for a walk or playing a board game.
5. Make technology work in your favour. There are plenty of ways tech can help you limit screen time. The iPad’s ‘Guided Access’ limits the time you can use any given app, while the Forest app lets kids grow a beautiful virtual forest of different trees each day as long as they stay within their device usage guidelines.
According to Internet Matters, eight out of 10 children admit they surpass their parents’ daily device limits.
“Setting boundaries on your children’s technology can seem daunting, as it’s sometimes difficult to know how much screen time is too much,” says Carolyn Bunting, Internet Matters’ general manager. “But if you’re constantly trying to divert their attention from Snapchat to have a conversation, then it’s probably time to moderate their usage.”
She advises using the internet with them to understand what they’re doing, rather than just setting a time limit. “Rather than being anti-social, lonely and isolating, screens can be social, connecting and creative,” she says. “Playing games together, looking up new places to visit or learning about a new app are great ways to share screen time in a positive way.”